It's been over a year since I updated this! A year! I guess trying to get inside Havoc's brain is no easy task.

Hiromu Arakawa owns the characters, I'm just taking them out for a figurative spin. Thanks to Wash for his beta skills.

Cigarettes and Coffee Stains on Manuscripts

Chapter 14: Plan of Attack

It was an empty and messy apartment that Jean Havoc returned to that evening, after what had possibly been one of the least successful dates he had ever attempted. This thought was not to be taken lightly, as most of his attempted dates were unsuccessful. Then again, most of his attempted dates were with women decidedly less intelligent than his research partner, Sciezska, which inspired this lovely choice of words to issue from his mouth as he slammed his keys down onto a decrepit end table by the door.

"For fuck's sake, just what were you expecting!?'

Sighing, Jean leaned against the door, slowly sliding down to the worn out tatami mats on the floor. He should have known better than to ask Sciezska out on a date, although truth be told, based on her reaction, he wasn't positive that she had even realized that it had been a date.

Running his fingers through his hair, agitated, Jean sighed again. He hadn't known what had come over him earlier in the evening, only that the more Sciezska had talked excitedly, the more her face had lit up in a way that Jean could only now describe to himself as beautiful.

In fact, thinking back on their research together, Jean couldn't remember a time when being with a woman had been this fun. Whenever he had dated women, even if it had only been to distract the Colonel, it had seemed that he never lived up to their expectations, and inevitably, they would end up with someone else. Usually the Colonel. Being with Sciezska was different, Jean thought, most likely because he hadn't started their relationship by trying to get under her skirt.

Well, he thought a bit more, not unless you counted that time that he was drunk at Hughes funeral, but surely he deserved a figurative 'pass' in that situation, being distraught with grief and all.

Jean fumbled around in his pocket for a cigarette. Quickly lighting it, he took a deep, well-deserved drag, watching as the smoke lazily curled upwards towards his somewhat filthy ceiling. As he savored the taste of his admittedly disgusting habit, he began to mull over the day's events.

Just exactly what had he been thinking when he had suddenly asked Sciezska out to dinner? Romantic entanglements at work were actually something that Jean had successfully avoided, unless you counted the Colonel swooping in to steal his dates as 'romantic entanglements.' Jean had never wanted to get involved with anyone at work because work romances, more often than not, led to despair. Even more despair than what Jean was used to receiving from women on a daily basis. If he had been suddenly willing to throw caution to the wind like that, it meant…

"I actually like her," Jean thought aloud. "I really like her."

Taking another long drag, he supposed that this information should have sent him into a panic, but the only feeling he could muster was a sense of overwhelming calm. A slow smile began to spread across his face until he was laughing goofily, sitting on the floor alone in his apartment. If his coworkers could see him now, they would probably consider hauling him off to the loony bin.

"I like Sciezska," he reiterated to himself, finishing off his cigarette with a long, languid sigh.

Hauling his body off of the floor, Jean neatly put out the burnt end in a nearby ashtray, rubbing his fingers together to get rid of any ash. It was time to formulate a plan of attack. Sciezska was intelligent, ridiculously so, Jean thought with a smile, and she would need to be approached in a different way then his other failed romantic endeavors with women who had, for the most part, been Sciezska's complete opposites. Women, Jean mused, much like their waitress for the latter half of the evening, Solaris.

Jean pulled out a crumpled piece of paper where the busty waitress had written down her name in neat cursive handwriting, followed by her phone number. Normally, he would have been ecstatic to receive a number from a girl like that, but something about Solaris had rubbed him the wrong way. Sure she was pretty and had hit on him, but her voice had left him cold, and after the initial attraction to her obvious assets, Jean had begun to suspect that she was pushing herself on him for a reason.

As to what that reason could be, Jean could only guess, but based on their interview with Barry, and subsequent dinner conversation that Solaris had interrupted several times, he had the sneaking suspicion that it had something to do with Hughes's unfinished research. Staring down at the piece of paper, Jean turned it over and over between his fingers. It couldn't hurt to get a bit closer to the woman could it? Then, when he found out more information, he could present it to Sciezska, and make her see how brilliant he actually was. She seemed like the type that would be attracted to that sort of thing.

Smiling to himself again, Jean imagined Sciezska's reaction. Her eyes would light up like they had earlier today, and her crazy memory would probably go into overdrive trying to put all of the information together. Maybe she would lean across his desk, allowing her uniform to stretch across her chest while dipping a bit lower, giving him a glimpse of her cleavage.

Jean began walking to the bathroom to grab a tissue, whistling to himself. His plan was foolproof.

A/N: Thanks to everyone who has stuck with this story through the years, especially havocmangawip who reminds me occasionally not to let life swallow me whole and update this cute little story.

Also thanks to all of the recent reviewers: anna707, varie, WildfireDreams, and StarliteBaby. Your comments and reviews are all appreciated!